China This Week

Chris Gelken -   in Beijing, provides a weekly digest of some eye-catching editorials in the Chinese press.

A leading medical expert in China has reiterated his claim that internet addiction is a psychological disease, defending a position that has triggered widespread debate.Tao Ran, who was responsible for drafting the Internet Disorder Diagnostic Manual, was quoted in The China Daily as saying that defining internet addiction as a mental disorder did not discriminate against young people who are addicted to online games and surfing the net. He said it is common that people assume mental disorders refer to insanity; when in fact they include depression, sleep disorders and anxiety disorders.

Tao Ran says he and 41 other doctors studied the case histories of 1,300 internet addicts over the past four years. He says the conclusions reached in the manual were based on their clinical experience.

He put forward the definition of an internet addict as someone who for more than three months has spent more than six hours a day online for purely entertainment purposes. The addict also shows no interest in other activities, and experiences feelings of restlessness when prevented from going online.

The study and its conclusions have raised fears that addicts could avoid liability for criminal acts if their addiction is defined as a mental disorder.

Ten Of The Worst

Local media outlets in Shandong's Jining City recently published a list of the region's ten worst performing or most corrupt public officials. The move was designed as part of ongoing efforts to root out corruption.

It set off a heated public debate, not least because the list came as something of a shock  — especially to government employees  — who had previously only ever seen lists of the ten best.

The Beijing Youth Daily was scornful of the idea to create a  'ten worst' list, saying it was a complete waste of time; primarily because the ten names that appeared had already left government service, with many serving prison sentences for their crimes.

The paper described the list as  "flogging a dead tiger" and a  "superficial" attempt to fight corruption.

An article in The Peoples' Daily was, however, a little more supportive. It said the naming and shaming of corrupt officials will serve as a warning to all public servants to improve their efficiency and honesty. The long prison sentences and occasional execution for government employees convicted of corruption has obviously not sent a clear enough message.

Another Brick In The Wall?

As teachers went back to school after the Spring Festival holiday break they were hit with a surprising edict issued by the Shanghai Municipal Government.

Primary school teachers in the region were ordered to do any homework exercises themselves before assigning it to their students.   The move, apparently, is designed to give teachers an idea of how much time their students will have to spend on the exercises. The municipal authorities also declared that first and second year students shouldn't have any homework at all.

The China Youth Daily
applauded the initiative. An editorial said education departments should focus on reducing the amount of homework given to young children and put more emphasis on quality education.

The editorial said it was a positive move away from a system that determines success mainly on exam scores rather than overall performance. However, while the initiative is likely to prove popular with students, the authorities obviously didn't take into account the fact that the teachers would, or at least should, already know the answers to any set problems.

It is unrealistic to compare the time it would take a teacher to complete an exercise set for a five or six-year old. Therefore, the paper argued, the core point is to change exam-oriented education into quality oriented education and not just play  "number games" with homework assignments.